The Beijing-appointed leader of Hong Kong accused U.S. officials on Tuesday of having a double standard for backing huge pro-democracy protests in her city while condemning the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of President Donald Trump.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam issued the remarks, which mirror sentiments voiced by the central Chinese government, in response to a question about the mass arrests last week of pro-democracy activists in the Chinese region.
More than 50, most of whom were later released, under a controversial new “national security” law imposed on Hong Kong by Beijing. U.S. and European leaders, along with many Hong Kongers, have condemned the law as the nail in the coffin of the city’s long-time semi-autonomy from Beijing.
The arrests on January 6 brought swift condemnation from U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Calling them “an outrage” and threatening new sanctions against China, Pompeo said the detentions were “a reminder of the Chinese Communist Party’s contempt for its own people and the rule of law. Those arrested are guilty of nothing but exercising the democratic rights promised to them by treaty, and due to them through virtue of their humanity.”
His statement came hours before dozens of President Trump’s ardent supporters, driven by his false claims of election fraud and repeated calls for a “fight” against what he portrays as a Democratic Party conspiracy against him, stormed into the Capitol as lawmakers prepared to certify the U.S. presidential election results. The assault left five people dead.
Mr. Trump’s aggressive rhetoric, including calls just hours before the melee for his supporters to march on the Capitol, drew resounding condemnation from Democrats and Republicans alike. Many, including President-elect Joe Biden, directly accused him of inciting an insurrection.
But in Hong Kong and Beijing, as in many capitals around the world, it wasn’t Mr. Trump’s role but the condemnation of the violence that provided fodder for undemocratic leaders.
“I ask foreign audiences to set aside their double standards. It seems like if they look at affairs of Hong Kong and of the mainland [China] they use a very different standard than the one applied to their own country,” Lam told reporters on Tuesday.
She claimed the 2019 protests that paralyzed Hong Kong, drawing hundreds of thousands of people onto the streets for largely peaceful demonstrations, saw “rampant violence and riots,” but were applauded and even encouraged by the West “under the guise of democracy.”
“When the same thing seemed to happen in their own country, they immediately took a very different approach to condemn the violence, and some said that this was verging on sedition in American society,” Lam charged.
There were some incidents of violence in Hong Kong, including some property damage and clashes between protesters – often armed with little more than umbrellas – and heavily armed riot police.
The vast majority of the violence witnessed by CBS News, however, was the harsh crackdown by Hong Kong’s police force, who wielded tear gas, water cannon and batons against peaceful demonstrators.
Hundreds were swept up in mass arrests. Many remain in jail today, and those who managed to escape admit that under the new “national security” law, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement is down, if not out.